Where’s the government?

Published May 18, 2015
The institutional vacuum that Lt Gen Mukhtar described is perhaps more relevant today than it has ever been in Sindh.—DawnNews screen grab
The institutional vacuum that Lt Gen Mukhtar described is perhaps more relevant today than it has ever been in Sindh.—DawnNews screen grab

THE Karachi corps commander’s unprecedented public comments on much that ails the megacity has underlined a basic question: where is the government?

Not the governments over the decades that have failed Karachi, according to Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, but the one that has been elected in Sindh to consecutive terms. Where is the PPP in all of this? Where, for that matter, are all the civilian parties with stakes in Karachi?

Even before Lt Gen Mukhtar’s remarks, it had become apparent that the military leadership was exerting a great deal of influence in the civilian arena — a degree of influence unseen outside of direct military rule of the country.

Take a look: Karachi operation is completely apolitical, stresses Corps Commander Karachi

A part of the reason is surely the military’s aggressive approach in Karachi, appearing to neither want nor expect even the bare minimum of civilian support. However, a great deal of the blame must surely lie with the political parties themselves.

Consider that in recent times the only energy the PPP leadership in Sindh seems to be truly interested in expending is on internal battles.

With PPP leaders almost falling over themselves to pledge support for party boss Asif Ali Zardari and distance themselves from the aide-turned-rebel Zulfikar Mirza, there appears to be little time to focus on matters of governance.

Of course, the Zardari-Mirza spat cannot explain a remarkable run of neglect.

In charge of Sindh for seven years now, the PPP’s seemingly only attempted answer to Karachi’s woes was to try and keep the MQM on board — the assumption being that with the major stakeholders inside government rather than outside, it would be easier to manage the differences. But the MQM has been suffering its own crisis of leadership: an increasingly erratic Altaf Hussain, facing multiple challenges to his domination of the MQM and Karachi, appears at times to be unravelling in full view of the city he once had in a vice.

The institutional vacuum that Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar described is perhaps more relevant today than it has ever been in Sindh.

Yet, there is something worryingly partisan about the corps commander’s description of all that ails Karachi.

The institutional vacuum that the general described has not just been “filled by criminals and special interest groups whether political, ethnic or sectarian”, but by the military too.

Consider the now two-decade-old presence of the army-run paramilitary Rangers force in the city. That force and its leadership are often — though, for obvious reasons, privately — accused of many of the same things that the political parties and their leaders are.

There is also the awkwardness of Lt Gen Mukhtar grabbing centre stage in Karachi — an astonishing and brazen usurpation of political prerogative and power.

The Karachi corps commander probably saw no irony in describing Karachi’s political problems from his self-claimed apolitical perch. Most politicians are unlikely to share Lt Gen Mukhtar’s one-sided view of history.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2015

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